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I was thirty pounds overweight and uncomfortable in my body. In an upright position, if I attempted to bend over with knees locked, I couldn’t touch my toes. Run for ten minutes without breaking a sweat? Forget it. Try thirty seconds. I had been thinner in my past and had ridden my bike all over the place, sometimes hitting a century week – a hundred miles in seven days. But that had been years ago and my bad habits were a series of dominoes, creating cascade of events in my life that although pleasurable in the moment, created a lifestyle that I didn’t want. Exercise was my way out.
That’s why I’m grateful for exercise. Of course diet played its part as well. I kept my calories around twelve hundred a day for three months, then modified it to around eighteen hundred after that. However, it was the exercise regimen that pulled me out of the negative mindset that I was in and provided several other benefits as well. I noticed an increased ability to think clearly, I had more energy during the day, and I had a greater overall sense of well-being and self-concept that came from taking greater care of myself.
I noticed that the motivation to exercise changed over time. At first, it was to shed my weight and to gain endurance, so that I wasn’t breathing hard at the end of my run. I measured my success by how far I could go without having to walk. I didn’t care about my speed – in fact, I often slowed myself down because I came across information that mentioned that the best workout in running involved staying in the aerobic zone – that is, breathing with air. I paid special attention to my ability to breathe while exercising. If my breathing was labored and high in my chest, I took it as feedback from my body that I was running low on energy. If my breathing was easy and coming from my diaphragm, then my body was giving me the green light.
However, once I began to see improvements in both my weight and endurance, then the gains were my motivation, as well as not wanting to return to my original state. In this way, I was using both positive and negative reinforcemen to keep myself going. I used the positive in that I celebrated the gains that I was making, no matter how small and I paid attention to how I felt after the exercise was over – it was exhilarating. I also focused on the pain that I would feel if I went back to my old self and what it would take to get back into shape again. It kept me going when I didn’t want to exercise.
A final reason that I am grateful for exercise is that it costs next to nothing to get started. When I decided that I was going to make exercise part of my daily routine, I wore a t-shirt, jeans, and shoes. I didn’t waste my time buying special clothes or go for a certain look. I made it easy for myself and focused on what was important – the exercise. Too many people get hung up on crafting the proper look, choosing the right gym, or even going with the right people. That’s a bottleneck that stops people from making change. I made it easy on myself. One writer said there is a difference between motion and action. Motion feels like action because you’re choosing the best running shoe, the aerodynamic clothes, the gym that has all the equipment you need, but you aren’t actually exercising. Focus on the action – the actual doing of it.
The end result is that exercise is now a part of my life and I look forward to my daily workouts. I feel more comfortable with myself and this one habit has given me the drive to develop myself in other areas as well. Besides it feels good and that is important to me.